14 December 2011

Becoming a ski instructor is a glamorous (and therefore an extremely popular) career break choice. No wonder: ski resorts are often located in some of the most breathtakingly beautiful regions of the world (if you like mountains, that is!). By working as a ski instructor, you normally get a free chalet, food and lift passes in addition to being paid to ski alongside the people you are teaching.

Where and how do I become a ski instructor?

Don't worry if you've never skiied before. Many ski courses are available if you need to learn to ski or improve your skiing skills, either at home at dry ski slopes, or on the pistes at ski resorts. You'll need to be able to carve at speed and snowplough safely, even on bumpy snow. Once you're confidently skiing down red runs and you can cope with black runs, you'll have the on-piste skills required to be a ski instructor. You could view a short skiing holiday as training for your career break!

To get work as a ski instructor, you will need to obtain a ski instructor’s qualification. Many companies offer courses in ski instruction and these usually last around 6 weeks – shorter courses are more intensive and may only cover safety and alpine skiing (traditional downhill/piste skiing); longer courses might also cover other types of skiing such as mogul and cross-country.

You can obtain ski instructor qualifications from many different sources, from UK snowsport organisations or from companies that run these courses all over the world. The European ski season lasts from late November to early April, and that’s the period when most courses are run. If you’d like take the course outside of those dates, the ski season in the southern hemisphere is April to October. So if the timing isn’t right, or the Alps are a bit too close to home, consider training in countries like Argentina, Australia or New Zealand.

If you want to work outside of the country where you obtained your qualification, make sure you obtain an International Ski Instructors Association (ISIA)-recognised qualification— this might be more advanced than the national qualification. With an ISIA-accredited qualification, you can work in 37 countries— which includes pretty much every country in the world with a ski industry, except China.

Who can I work for as a ski instructor?

There are plenty of options. You could work as a ski instructor for a ski school— either an independent outfit or one that is part of a resort or hotel, for a tour operator, or even at a dry ski slope closer to home!

Where can I work as a ski instructor?

With an ISIA-recognised qualification, you can work as a ski instructor in almost every country in the world that has a ski industry. This means that if you want to travel during your career break, you can. It also means that you can work as a ski instructor all year round— remember that the southern hemisphere’s slopes beckon from April to October.

Top Tips for being a ski instructor

  • If you’ve never skiied before, make the effort to get to a reasonable standard. You won’t pass your instructors course otherwise.
  • Although working as a ski instructor can pay well, you should try to budget for decent skis and snow clothing—these don’t come cheap. You’ll need them on your ski instructor course.
  • Always check if you need professional indemnity insurance. Usually your employer will have you covered, but it’s always best to check.
  • Travel insurance. Most standard travel insurance policies won’t cover you for skiing. Buy a policy that does. Also, alcohol consumption in conjunction with a sports injury may invalidate your insurance, so beware the après ski!

Where next?


This post was written by Mark Hillen for The Career Break Site.